A PLEIN TEMPS (Harry Fry) Dec. 17th ran in the Taunton 3.20 coming 2nd. Put up as a two star selection at 11/4, he was returned 13/8 favourite. Right price, wrong result. For this 2m 7f C4 novice hurdle they went a steady pace in the heavy ground. The selection was always prominent on the inside but at times looked a little green running about a bit and he really guessed at one in the back straight but turning for home there were four in it and he had every chance but just didn’t see it out as well as the winner. Definite work in progress as a 3m chaser and still some growing up to do. He will improve for the run and better ground may help. He goes in the tracker. Could finish up with the whole of Harry Fry’s yard in the tracker come season end!!
BAGS GROOVE (Harry Fry) On bumper debut this 4yo son of Oscar gave previous winner Criq Rock a real race in a C4 Ascot bumper on good to soft ground with 14L back to the third. Harry Fry paid 40K guineas for him and being out of a Roselier mare it is possible the very best of him won’t be seen until he jumps a fence, however a similar bumper is there for the taking and he showed enough speed to suggest he could be tidy over hurdles.
Mark Howard (One Jump ahead) wrote “Paul Nicholls’ former assistant came close to making it a four timer in the bumper with debutant Bags Groove finishing a close second. The front two pulled clear of the rest and the Oscar gelding will be hard to beat next time.” Harry Fry wrote on his website “Bags Groove, on his racecourse debut, came tantalising close to giving us a fourth winner on the card in the closing bumper. He led into the final furlong before lack of experience told as he was caught close home by Criq Rock who was more streetwise on his fourth start.”
BALLAGH (Ben Case) The stable is completely out of form and Ballagh opened this season over a trip at least half a mile too short but was still competitive two out before the Henderson pair of OOSeven and Premier Bond did him for toe. Stable in some sort of form, 2m4f+, possibly a fence and he’ll win. I would love to see him have a go at a Pertemps qualifier as I think the trip would be right and he could have the profile for the Cheltenham Festival final OR135h An ex-inmate of Charlie Swan he cost £125K at Brightwells having beaten Lord Scoundrel in a Navan bumper. His three runs in this country were a, headed at the last, second to Different Gravey at Newbury and the same position behind Three Musketeers in a G2 at Warwick where despite staying on he was three parts of a length short.
Case also believes Ballagh has a bright future ahead of him after he chased home Three Musketeers in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday. While Dan Skelton is thinking of skipping the Festival with the winner, Case is likely to enter his former Charlie Swan inmate in both of the aforementioned Cheltenham events, after he has hopefully won a novice hurdle next month. “I think he’ll have a run in February somewhere in a novice hurdle,” said Case. “He’ll have an entry in the two-five race at Cheltenham and possibly the three-miler as well. Potentially he’s a nice three-mile chaser of the future. Even though he’s shown a high level of form, he hasn’t won yet so we can run him in a novice, but he’s been given a handicap mark of 135. He’s a nice horse, ever since we’ve had him we’ve always thought a lot of him. We thought the step up in trip might help him and it did, he travelled really well. As he’s quite a big horse I wouldn’t want to run him on ground too quick yet, but I’m sure he’d handle good ground.” Sporting Life Jan.16th
“Ballagh finished 3rd in the Rendlesham novice hurdle at Haydock, he was beaten by two very good horses but it appeared that he did not quite get the 3 miles, he will have a short break and I will look to run him at Aintree in the 2 1/2 mile novice hurdle. He is a very exciting prospect for the future.” Ben Case Racing latest news
I was a little surprised to see him flying this high. I thought maybe the handicap route off a mark of OR 135h. G2 behind Definitly Red and Fletchers Flyer. Outpaced three out, over 20L behind Definitly Red.
Ballagh was well beaten off but he’s a chaser in the making and lost little in defeat. Norms Notebook Hayd Feb 14th
“Ballagh finished 3rd in the Rendlesham novice hurdle at Haydock, he was beaten by two very good horses but it appeared that he did not quite get the 3 miles, he will have a short break and I will look to run him at Aintree in the 2 1/2 mile novice hurdle. He is a very exciting prospect for the future.” Ben Case Racing latest news
BALLY BEAUFORT (Nigel Twiston-Davies) I hope I haven’t missed the boat with this one as he has won both his chases this season and his handicap mark has already gone up 7lb from 128 to 135 and is due to go up again above 140. However I just love his attitude and he is one tough cookie. This son of Old Vic ran in three Irish PtP’s as a 4yo and twice as a 5yo returning figures of PU1PU-48. However as a 4yo that victory was a three length beating of no less than Outlander!! Then on turning six he ran seven times in thirteen weeks in Irish PtP’s, winning five of them! His much touted half-brother Birch Hill went for £160K at Brightwells and is currently labouring with Nicky Henderson and last season Bally Beaufort was no great shakes over hurdles (552481PU) often highly tried his win came in a 3m C4 maiden hurdle but he beat Onenightinvienna (#startracking) by a nose typical of his tenacity and undoubted stamina. Sent chasing this season he didn’t touch a twig when winning first time up in a C3 Novice chase at Aintree over 3m 1f beating Spirit of Shankly by 4L. Returning to the same course over 5f shorter in a C3 novice’s handicap he hit a flat spot before powering down the straight to win going away off a mark of 135. His trainer said he will return to 3m+ and with a mark in the early 140’s I’m sure The Twister will be eyeing a couple of big handicap chases closer to home, especially in March, and it seems the Grand National back at Aintree. “He found this trip (two-and-a-half-miles) a bit sharp, not surprisingly having won over three miles last time, he won’t be running over it again,” said Twiston-Davies. “He jumps and gallops, he’s won that off 135, he’ll be going into the 140s, he turns eight in a few weeks so why wouldn’t you be thinking of the Grand National? Bindaree won it as an eight-year-old.”
BORN SURVIVOR (Dan Skelton) I should have been bold enough to put this chap up before his British debut on the strength of the Irish PtP reports and his £220k price tag but I wanted to see him run first! Luckily he made his debut on “Min” Thursday and Warwick may have gone slightly under the radar! He is a strapping specimen, big, scopey and chasing shouldn’t be an issue further down the line. He won a decent Irish Point in a style that had the scouts drooling. On debut in Britain in a C4 maiden hurdle he was prominent throughout, jumped neatly, took it up three out but Alan King’s Minella Charmer gave him a race all the way to the line with the rest well strung out behind. Indeed the second could be well worth adding to your tracker as well! The Skelton’s know they have a good horse on their hands and he just did enough. There is talk of not over racing the horse this season, so an EBF qualifier would be an interesting second race with the final at Sandown the Saturday before the Festival?
Here are a few items written before his debut,
“BORN SURVIVOR 4yo b g (1) King’s Theatre – Bob’s Flame (Bob Back) W.F. Codd The Ballymena maiden looked top class on the day. This winner topped the Brightwells Sales making £220,000 while the second and third were sold for a combined £152,000 as both had previous form. Two winners have already emerged from this maiden in Chef D’Oeuvre and Definitly Grey. He is beautifully bred and showed an exceptional turn of foot on his debut against some very talented opposition. He could well be high class and is one of the standout performers of the season. He was purchased by Richard Kelvin Hughes and will now go to Dan Skelton.” FUTURE STARS Richard Pugh 08 May 2015
Dan Skeltons ATR Stable Tour 10th Nov. “Winner of his only point-to-point in Ireland.“He’s a lovely horse who won his only Irish point-to-point. He would be running probably in early December probably in a novice hurdle and he won’t be over raced this year.”
and here is what the Weekender’s Ken Pitterson wrote after the race.
“Expensive purchase Born Survivor made a striking debut at Warwick on Thursday. He looked quality and produced performance to match. His trainer, Dan Skelton, will bring him back to the track for the Leamington Hurdle, the Grade 2 novice he won with Three Musketeers last year.
Minella Charmer was more unfurnished and showed a fair amount of ability to at least give the favourite a race in second. He was a long way clear of the third and the race had a fair bit of depth to it.”
BOX OFFICE (Nicky Henderson) Will enter the history books as AP McCoy’s last ride when 3rd at Sandown in April. Box Office won three out of four in France and at auction JP McManus had to go to 185K euros to secure the 4yo Great Pretender gelding. He made his debut in this country in a C4 handicap at Taunton off a mark of 135 running third to Tornado in Milan. His second run was at the Festival in the Fred Winter and he went off at 13/2F! Someone thought he was well handicapped and he was a 6L seventh to Qualando. He was then 6th at Aintree and on his final run last season when stepped up 4f third to Brother Tedd in the Bet365 handicap hurdle at Sandown, both times off 135. He started this season back at two miles off 134 and was 6th at Chepstow off 135. Then back up 4f he was 3rd at Aintree off 134 and recently he was fourth at Sandown over 300 yards further off 133. “BOX OFFICE ran well to finish a close fourth in the handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. It might have looked like he was a bit unlucky, that he was squeezed out on the run to the final flight and again a little on the run-in, but the reality was that I didn’t have the pace to take the gap when it was there. Even so, it was a nice run, the first four were nicely clear. Box Office is only four and he is another who has the scope to progress a little more.” Barry Geraghty blog 7th Dec. This horse runs the same race every time. Held up, progress three out, challenged at last, didn’t go through with it!! He’s back up to OR135 and he is only four. I am convinced there is a big C2 handicap hurdle in this horse, if not two. They just seem to think he needs to come between horses to challenge, does he stop in front? Never been put there so we don’t know. He could be a County/Coral Cup/Martin Pipe player at the Festival. Probably prefer the Martin Pipe as an under performing Barry Geraghty won’t be on him! Currently 16/1 favourite for the race!!!
BRONCO BILLY (Jonjo O’Neill) You just can’t ignore the Ballydoyle boys paying big money for geldings. 120K euros for this one. John Wade has his year older brother (Allez Cool) who is currently a 100 rated handicap hurdler! Second first time up in a Worcester bumper he made no mistake next time winning at Carlisle on heavy ground. “Geraghty completed the double when booting Bronco Billy to victory in an interesting bumper. What a lovely horse this was, with plenty of size and good bone, he looks a proper horse for the future. With a run behind him he was a good bet against the other two market principals.” Notes-from-the-north “BRONCO BILLY won the bumper despite being green. I’d expect a lot of improvement for the experience.” Geraghty Blog
He was then off the course for thirteen months hinting at a physical issue (?) but over 2m 4f back at Carlisle on hurdling debut it was only lack of a run that allowed Nicky Richards much touted Western Rules to beat him. Bronco Billy hurdled neatly, travelled strongly but just couldn’t go past in that final climb to the line.
BUVEUR D’AIR (Nicky Henderson) This French bred 4yo was unbeaten in two junior bumpers in France before being acquired by Portensis and Chris Giles and sent to Nicky Henderson. His bumper form last season was of the highest order running 2nd in a Listed race at Newbury and 4th in the G1 at Aintree, both times behind Barters hill. On hurdles debut he was headed in the market by Cheltenham Champion Bumper 3rd Wait for Me but in the race Buveur D’Air was so much more professional, hurdling neatly as the favourite made continuous mistakes and he cruised past on the run in winning by 11L, 6L & 19L. This one could go right to the top with the only concern being does he need soft ground.
CAPARD KING (Jonjo O’Neill) Here is a horse with a very interesting profile. This son of Beneficial started off as a 5yo in three Irish points with form figures of F42. After finishing 4th in a Tipperary bumper Jonjo O’neill paid £45K for him and ran him in three novice hurdles (18.5F 3rd btn 19L, 18.5F 6th btn 50L, 19.5F 8th btn 46L) and he was given a handicap mark of 103. Then promptly stepped up to 24F+ he won three out of four ending up on 135. That is Prescott-esque! However his trainer hadn’t finished there as first time out this season off his hurdle mark he ran in a 24F C3 Novice handicap chase and promptly won that. He jumped soundly although hanging right on the run in he saw off two solid yardsticks in Seldom Inn and Kings Odyssey and has been raised to OR139. It is fair to say that stepping up to 3 miles and the sight of a fence has brought about some improvement! I think there is a good C2 3m+ handicap in Capard King and then a pop at one of the Festival 3m handicap chases probably the one on the Tuesday.
CAROLES DESTRIER (Neil Mulholland) These are the thoughts of his trainer in his ATR Stable Tour on 24th November 2015. “He made a pleasing reappearance in the Badger Ales Chase when finishing fifth to Drop Out Joe under topweight. He will run in the London Handicap Chase at Sandown on December 5 or will go to Cheltenham on December 12 for the three mile two furlong December Handicap Chase.” 8yo Carole’s Destrier is a solid 3m+ handicap chaser who knows how to win and 146 is a workable mark in my opinion and after that promising return to action in the Badger when he was right there three out, his shrewd trainer should be able to find the right race. He is in at Sandown on Saturday and right handed is good (four of his five wins have been RH) plus the extra 4F could well eke further improvement. Would like to see Noel Fehily in the saddle.
CHEF D’OEUVRE (Warren Greatrex) This French bred 4yo son of Martaline was 4th to Born Survivor (#startracking) on Irish pointing debut but hacked up on heavy ground on his second try. Snapped up by Highflyer’s Tessa Greatrex for £56K to be trained by her husband Warren, on debut in Britain he was 3rd in a soft ground Sandown bumper having been sent off at 6/4 favourite. Five weeks later he made his hurdling debut at Lingfield in a C4 2m 4f novice hurdle back on heavy ground and absolutely routed the well thought of Krugermac (who didn’t handle the ground!). He may be ground dependent but the trainer said in a recent Weekender stable feature “He loves soft ground and might have a good race in him when we step him up to 3m.”
“CHEF D’OEUVRE 4yo b g (41)Martaline – Kostroma (Lost World) Colin Bowe A €29,000 purchase at last year’s Derby Sale by Colin Bowe & Tom Keating. This fellow did not enjoy much luck in running when a very promising fourth on his debut at Ballymena. From that race, Born Survivor, Some Are Lucky and Fionn Mac Cul realised a combined total of £372,000 at Brightwells so this maiden was very well regarded. This fellow was the second horse to run from it as Definitly Grey had won at Taylorstown 24 hours earlier. At Laurence- town he was ridden closer to the pace and ground out a very notable victory and looks a very exciting youngster.” FUTURE STARS Richard Pugh 08 May 2015
COPPER KAY (Philip Hobbs) The horse that impressed me most over the three days of the Cheltenham Open Meeting was the winner of the Listed Mares Bumper COPPER KAY. She looked magnificent in the pre parade ring, she has size and scope and she sprinted away from a classy field that included eight previous winners. Will Philip Hobbs keep her in bumpers? Will he keep her against her own sex? Will he send her hurdling and target the new race next March? If she turned up in the Dawn Run she has to be respected, likewise if she is in the line-up for the Champion Bumper.
DE NAME ESCAPES ME (Noel Meade) I hope I haven’t missed the boat with this one as he has won his last two and I’ve been impressed both times. One run in an Irish PtP then he won a Clonmel bumper easily by 8L+ for the Keatings who sold him to JP McManus who put him into training with Noel Meade. He was third behind Sandymount Duke and the well thought of Klinnsman in a June Punchestown maiden hurdle on good ground but given three months off he has won a 16F Down Royal maiden hurdle and under a penalty won at Fairyhouse at the weekend over 4F further wearing a hood for the first time having been given a mark of 123. In Noel Meade’s ATR Stable Tour on October 8th his trainer said “The first day we ran him he just took a hell of a strong hold and was too free to give himself a chance of getting home. It was two-and-a-half miles that day, so we’ll drop him back to two miles next time and hopefully that will suit him better. I think he’ll appreciate soft ground, maybe not heavy ground, but I do like him and I think he will do well.” After his last win I found this on Twitter “Irishracing.com Live @IrishRacing365 · Nov 28 “Likes soft ground but I think he’s better over 2m. Plenty of boot” Noel Meade, De Name Escapes Me 11/10fav @Fairyhouse. If the handicapper puts him up say 10lb at worse he could be interesting in one of the 2m Christmas handicaps although he has a 33/1 quote from Boylesports for the Supreme at Cheltenham and he has an entry in the Leopardstown Christmas festival Future Champions novice hurdle.
DRUMCLIFF (Harry Fry) Bred by Simon Tindall this 4yo son of Presenting, a half-brother to Simonsig no less, cost JP McManus 60K euros and he has sent him to Harry Fry. Heavily backed in a 2m C4 bumper at Taunton he sauntered home by 5L. 2L & 8L despite “distinctly” running green. Fair to say young Mr Fry is becoming the master of understatement when he put on his website, “Drumcliff completed a good day for the yard with a comfortable success in the bumper that offered bags of promise for the future. A half-brother to the brilliant Simonsig, he is a lovely prospect and I am grateful to JP McManus for sending him to me this season. It was good to see Drumcliff make a winning start to his racecourse career. He tracked the leaders for more than a circuit before stretching ahead in the straight despite running green. I’d like to think there will be plenty more to come from him as he gains experience.” Drumcliff is 20/1 for the Champion Bumper at the Festival with Bet365 and Stan James, the only two companies to price him up.
FINGERONTHESWITCH (Neil Mulholland) I don’t think I will be alone in putting this one up as he was an eye catching 4th in the Conditionals handicap at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting. Under 8lb claimer Shane Quinlan he was UknowwhatImeanharry’s only market rival but was one paced from the last. Off a mark of 123 his trainer said ““He ran a cracker at Cheltenham on his latest start when finishing fourth over two mile and five furlongs. He wants three miles and has done very little wrong.” This son of Beneficial has already won an Irish PtP and staying chasing may be his game but in the meantime my ears would certainly pick up if he ran in a Pertemps qualifier because if he could get his mark up 12lb with a couple of wins I could see that being his race. In last week’s Weekender Mulholland said ”I’ll be looking to running him over 3m soon. He is a very genuine horse and I think there’s a nice bit more to come.”
FLETCHERS FLYER (Harry Fry) His trainer had this to say in his Stable Tour “He has done well over the summer and we are looking forward to sending him novice chasing. He has always looked a chaser in the making and he could do even better over fences.” I think he made his chasing debut in an above average Exeter novice chase where he and the winner, OnenightinVienna (also on this list!), came 54L clear of the third leading to
Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead) writing “Onenightinvienna made an excellent start to his chasing career when beating the highly regarded Fletchers Flyer by a length and a quarter in a compelling three miles novices’ chase at Exeter… It shouldn’t be long before the runner-up goes one better.” I expect him to win his novice chase sooner rather than later and look forward to young Harry revealing what plans he has for the “Flyer”.
HAYMOUNT (Willie Mullins) Before he made his hurdling debut at Clonmel on November 26th trainer Willie Mullins wrote online “Haymount won a two and a half mile bumper at Tipperary in April and is doing better work now than he had been doing before that run. He jumps well and is more of a stayer but he could be each way value here.” Right on all counts Uncle Willie. Took all of Ruby Walsh’s urging to get Royal Caviar (“a difficult ride”. Correct again Willie!) past Haymount with 11L back to the third. In the Racing Post Stable Tour Mullins had called him “a fine big, chasing type” so we are looking for a step up in trip and his jumping skills should make him competitive, even over hurdles. Haymounts mum is a sister of Bishopsfurze and Mullins doesn’t have many homebreds so he must like this one and Haymount is in the tracker for the long term.
HELMSLEY LAD (Malcom Jefferson) We may all have to tread carefully with this young lad as Helmsley Lad is going in the tracker on the basis of what your correspondent saw in the flesh at Doncaster. He had enough size and scope in the paddock to be noteworthy, he was nibbled at in the market, raced prominently before losing his place turning for home but kept on well to finish fourth in what could turn out to be an above average northern C6 bumper, it was won by a Harry Fry mare on debut. The reason for the caution is that my summer paddock pick got withdrawn at the start after taking a dislike to the stalls, ran like a drain twice and was sold for 500 quid at the Horses in Training sale!!
IFTIRAAQ (Seamus Durack) I had better hurry up with this one as he is out on Thursday running under a penalty over 2m in a C4 novice hurdle at Leicester. I think his trainer has a real eye for a good horse and I would love to see him in a situation where he didn’t have to sell them on as I think that he can train as well. Iftiraaq knew what was required first time up in a C4 maiden hurdle at Leicester, the money was down, and he could be picked as the winner from three out and despite missing out the last two flights he won “comfortably” by three parts of a length. An ex-Hamdan al Maktoum horse homebred out of Mutathir he ran three times as a 3yo in France in the care of John Hammond before Durack paid just 8K guineas for him. He ran him five times on the flat over a variety of trips without winning but to a mark of 77 most times. However I am sure Durack bought him for the winter game as he has the size and scope to do well hurdling and whatever happens tomorrow I think the shrewd trainer could plot a few handicaps with Iftiraaq.
LISHEEN PRINCE (Philip Hobbs) It would seem the Whateley’s bought this 4yo son of Oscar as an unraced 3yo for 31K euros and after he had won an Irish 4yo PtP “impressively” at Oldcastle under JJ Codd they moved him to Philip Hobbs. In the trainers Racing Post Stable Tour in his typical understated manner he said “Not showing a great deal at home yet but is well regarded. He’ll want a trip.” That didn’t stop him running him in the 2 mile Listed bumper at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting where he went off a well supported 11/2 third favourite finishing an outpaced 8th! However that run did catch the attention of the Weekender’s eagle-eyed Ken Pitterson who wrote “Lisheen Prince looked the part in Sunday’s bumper but was green at various stages in the race. He will come on a ton for the experience.” That’s good enough for me he goes in the tracker.
MILES TO MILAN (Philip Hobbs) Guess what? This is another once raced novice from the Hobbs yard! This one cost 52K guineas as a 3yo but didn’t make his debut until he was five and was pitched in at C3 level he was a keeping on 3rd to the stellar Modus. My notes on the race for Miles to Milan say “travelled, hurdled, competitive two out. Can only improve.” That was over 2m 3f and another couple of furlongs may help? Ideal tracker material.
MINELLA AWARDS (Nicky Henderson) As I have written elsewhere (Jockey and Trainer Profiles) Nicky Henderson may have lost his way with fragile, ageing superstars and not much backing them up, he has some promising novices coming through and along with Buveur D’Air this is going in the tracker. On hurdling debut he was a solid second to Champers on Ice from the “hit and miss” David Pipe stable in the C3 novice hurdle at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting. Making headway from three out he was the only one to give the winner a race being held by threequarters of a length. Another one who changed hands at Brightwells having finished 2nd to Crazyheart (Sold to Paul Nolan for £110K at the same sale) in an Irish PtP he cost Portensis and Chris Giles £120K. No surprise to see Ken Pitterson (Weekender) was equally impressed “Held up, he warmed to his task and jumped and travelled with purpose. He stayed on in determined style on the run-in and I am sure this experience will not go amiss.” He is a 4yo gelded son of Oscar out of a Presenting mare and is obviously a chaser in waiting but showed enough speed to have a fruitful hurdling career.
NITROGEN (Harry Fry) His trainer had this to say about this gelded 8yo son of Old Vic “He’s a half-brother to Best Mate and will benefit from stepping up to three miles over fences this season. He goes for a novice handicap chase and we are obviously hoping he takes to fences.” Well he did, running a very promising 3rd to Spookydooky over a trip probably too short for him, keeping on when others had cried enough. Noel Fehily gave him a tender, educational ride out the back which should pay dividends in the long run. It will need too as well known owner paid 170K euro’s for him and he didn’t get on to a racecourse until he was a 7yo. This was only his fourth race so we have a well bred horse with low mileage on the clock in the right hands off a mark of 121. 3m should do the trick.
NO COMMENT (Philip Hobbs) Like Drumcliff this 4yo gelded son of Kayf Tara is owned by JP McManus but in the hands of Philip Hobbs. He was a keeping on second behind Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be in a Ludlow C4 Junior bumper over 1m 6f but there was 19L back to the third horse. The JP horse is closely related to Aran Concerto who won three Grade 1’s including the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and the Powers Gold Cup over fences and was probably at his best over two and a half miles on decent ground. Let’s hope No Comment turns out to be as good!
ONENIGHTINVIENNA (Philip Hobbs) This is one of only three horses that Philip Hobbs put forward as having Cheltenham potential and the way he won at Exeter on debut suggests it will be the 4m NH chase, currently quoted at 16/1. We should have a lot of fun with this one over the next few seasons. Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead) wrote “Onenightinvienna made an excellent start to his chasing career when beating the highly regarded Fletchers Flyer by a length and a quarter in a compelling three miles novices’ chase at Exeter. Tom O’Brien timed his run to perfection aboard the former Irish pointer as he mastered Harry Fry’s charge on the run-in. Progressive over hurdles last spring, he threatens to make an even better chaser with realistic Cheltenham Festival aspirations. It will be interesting to see if he heads to Prestbury Park next month for the staying novice chase.”
PERFORM (Philip Hobbs) He was as green as grass on debut last March at Uttoxeter pulling hard, sloppy at his hurdles etc. etc. but reappeared at Haydock in October in a C4 maiden hurdle looking much more the real deal. The day after that Philip Hobbs’ Racing Post Stable Tour was published he was a Dark Horse or not so dark as the trainer suggests. Hobbs reported that Perform “had grown up mentally and filled out, although he still looked green. Should step up significantly on that effort could be very nice.” That is fair gushing for young Philip. The form has been well franked since with the second Knockgraffon putting another Hobbs hopeful, Onefitzall, to the sword and the third, American, hacking up at Ascot in a C2 for Harry Fry. There was 15L back to the fourth who ran in a Doncaster handicap at the weekend off OR115. His next run is eagerly anticipated.
PERFORM (Philip Hobbs) I watched this one’s last race when he won at Aintree and thought he looked a nice type but had no idea of the strength of the form. However the Timeform boys were quite excited at how quick the front three had been from three out. Then the second, Knockgraffon, wins a C4 novice at Leicester and the third, American, wins a C2 at Ascot beating Label des Obeaux who himself goes on to win a G2 hurdle at Sandown at the weekend. That’s form well franked!
Here’s what Timeform said “Get Perform & Knockgraffon in your My @Timeform lists, folks. Pair over 3s faster from 3 out than unbeaten Hunters Hoof in the good 2½m hcp” Daniel Barber @DanBarberTF · Mon.Oct.25th Add to that the views of top paddock judge Adam Norman, “A decent maiden hurdle kicked things off and it didn’t take a Mississippi lawyer to figure out that Perform would run a massive race. A market drifter, this lovely scopey animal was primed to win first time out for the Hobbs/Johnson combo. Dickie J gave the beast a most confident ride and you couldn’t help be impressed by how he came clear with Knockgraffon, another decent type albeit in the compact/strong mode. Going For Broke was well backed but I found him a quite disappointing specimen, somewhat mishapen and on edge. He clearly shows plenty at home but I have a suspicion he could want it bottomless. Monday, 26 October 2015 Aintree and Perform has to be tracked. American may have quotes of 20/1 for the Neptune but I wouldn’t be surprised if the wily Mr Hobbs isn’t eyeing up a handicap mark in the high 130’s and one of those pesky Cheltenham handicaps for Perform.
SCOOP THE POT (Philip Hobbs) He’s only had the four career runs so far with form figures of 214-3. Second first time up when beaten a long way by Otago Tail but debuted in a C3, he then won his maiden hurdle at Ludlow at C4 level with a first time tongue tie over an inadequate 2m. He finished last season a disappointing third over 2m 4f in a C3 handicap at Wincanton off OR121 when he struggled to go the pace from three out. However over the summer he had a wind operation and he returned this season with a cracking third at Cheltenham in the 2m 5f conditionals handicap just 5l behind a much improved UknowwhatImeanharry off OR120. He was put up 4lb for that run, as opposed to the winner who has gone up 14lb having won again since, and off OR124 he looks a winner waiting to happen.
STILLETTO (Paul Nicholls) If I had got my act together a little bit quicker we could have launched this blog with a 6/4 winner! Stilletto is a horse of interest for many reasons. Firstly he is owned by big spending owner Roger Brookhouse who seems to have got into bed with Paul Nicholls and moved all his horses to Ditcheat, this one came from Philip Hobbs and a whole bunch came from Tom George (many of whom have appeared in 49SimpleSimonSays such as Wuff and Stellar Notion). Mr Brookhouse’s modus operandi is to take his cheque book to Brightwell’s and spend six figure sums on Irish PtP winners. This 5yo son of Westerner is exactly that costing £130K having won a 5yo maiden at Maralin. He won his maiden hurdle at Chepstow for Philip Hobbs before disappointing in the Neptune at the Festival having pulled too hard but going off at just 10/1. Secondly his first run for Paul Nicholls was noteworthy as he was a never competitive third to Rock the Kasbah, ironically trained by Hobbs, in a C2 handicap hurdle at Haydock off OR132 in a first time hood. Nick Schofield tried to settle him out the back, unsuccessfully, but he ran on through beaten horses. Thirdly he is huge, reminds me a bit of Wuff, he is headstrong and to get the very best out of him Nicholls needs him to grow up mentally. However he has real talent and on chasing debut at Catterick of all places he raced “with the choke out”, got close to a couple of fences but treated the rest with total contempt. When Amore Alato came to him he just winged the last and the race was over. If he ever settles he’ll be a real player. Look forward to the observations of Adam Norman plus comments from the connections.
THE ORGANIST (Oliver Sherwood) Last May she won a C5 bumper at Perth for the Crawford’s but it was enough to persuade The Million in Mind crowd to part with £60K for her. On hurdling debut she has only won a C4 mare’s novice hurdle at Huntingdon but she made every yard, didn’t touch a twig and came home full of running winning by fifteen lengths. She is trained by my bete noir Oliver Sherwood but she could be absolutely anything so she’s in the tracker.
THREE MUSKETEERS (Dan Skelton) Hands up I’ve backed him for the JLT already. Dan Skelton has made known that the race is his target and last time at Newbury he was faultless. Jumping, travelling and winning comfortably. This horse is classy and I like it when Dan Skelton has a plan, thank you Baradari. Next appearance should be at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in the Dipper Chase.
TIPPMANBOY (Dr Richard Newland) Mucking about going down to the start at Bangor and my notes said ”Son of Beneficial, bit of attitude given a strange ride. The only way to settle him was to let him blast off in front and he had nothing left to repel the winner from the last.” He hails from a small yard in Ireland and apparently they couldn’t hold him. This was his second run in Britain and he’s worn a hood both times. The big question is can the mercurial doctor get him to settle? Does he just need to grow up (the horse that is!)? Would a fence sort him out? He’s a big horse with plenty of scope and oodles of ability. Oh by the way the horse that beat him was Final Nudge and he ran UknowwhatImeanharry to one and a half lengths in the C2 Alfred Bartlett trial at Cheltenham!! We’ll tread carefully but just strikes me he is the sort of horse that Dr Newland excels with.
TOMBSTONE (Gordon Elliott) On Saturday I thought the best bet of the season so far was TOMBSTONE in the first division of the Maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse at a standout 6/4! The market was 20/1 bar two and the morning 8/11 favourite was the Willie Mullins trained Pylonthepressure. A useful bumper horse but destined to shine over fences having his first run of the season. Tombstone was already in my notebook as a horse who travelled, jumped and quickened, add to that Davy Russell in the saddle, a red hot Gordon Elliott training it and the negatives surrounding the favourite and the betting boots were on. Tombstone whizzed past between the last two flights and it was game over. With Paddy Power he is 33/1 (top price) for the Supreme, 12/1 (16/1 available elsewhere!) and no quote for the Alfred Bartlett. Think I know where he’s going then!! I see in the Weekender that Gordon Elliott has since called him “a proper horse.”
TOP GAMBLE (Kerry Lee) He is rated OR153 which could be an issue as he could be a “twilight” horse. Too high for a handicap, not good enough for level weights contests. I have put him in the tracker because in eight runs over fences he has won four and placed twice and he think he could allay both my fears, namely win a big handicap and succeed at level weights. I like the trainer, Kerri Lee, who has done a fantastic job since taking the licence over from her father Richard. Only seven years old this son of Presenting could have more yet to come though probably not on deep winter ground. He is owned by Dai Walters (owns Ffos Las, Oscar Whiskey etc. etc.) and the Potters and I’m sure Ms Lee wouldn’t mind them having a few more in the yard.
UN ACE (Kim Bailey) Is there a shrewder trainer than the blog-tastic Kim Bailey? He has been up and down jump racings greasy pole but seems very contented currently. I am with him on this one. Finished last season on a chasing OR of 149 so for debut this season Mr B runs him in a Listed handicap hurdle where he finishes a highly credible 4th, “Raced wide, held up in rear, steady progress from 3 out, took 4th before last, soon ridden and no impression, tired near finish”. So we are looking for a C2 0-150 chase but obviously he’s not quite ready as he is entered in two 3m hurdles at the weekend off an attractive hurdling mark of 144. Is he being lined up for another crack at what I know as the Byrne Plate? He was a disappointing 13th last year under McCoy at just 6/1. Another year older etc.
VIRGILIO (Dan Skelton) Once again I hope I haven’t missed the boat but when Virgilio won his last race he looked a horse ahead of the handicapper. He had four races in France as a 4yo on very soft ground, three hurdles and a 4yo chase (5144). He then had over fourteen months off before appearing in the care of the upwardly mobile Dan Skelton with a handicap mark of OR118 (those French marks really are given out by Santa Claus!). Equipped with a tongue tie he ran twice in six days in May 2015 winning a C3 2m 3f handicap at Warwick before bagging a C2 2m 4f at Aintree under a 7lb penalty. Both times winning in the same manner, held up before coming to challenge and then pulling clear to win by wide margins, 6L and then 12L. For those two wins the handicapper put him up by 20lb to OR138 but on Saturday back over course and distance he took it up running to the last before pulling clear by 8L laughing at the handicapper. “I just steered him round,” said jockey Ian Popham. Even if he goes up to OR145 he could be a player in a range of big Saturday 2m 4f+ hurdles especially whilst the winter ground prevails.
WINTERFELL (Dan Skelton) He is owned by Andrew Brooks and I hope he can go some way to replace Baradari who he sadly lost recently in a schooling accident. He had two runs in France (51) and made his debut at Warwick in a C4 juvenile four runner event finishing 2nd. There are three points of interest from that race. Winterfell and the winner were both quick and nimble at their hurdles. It was a ridiculously good time, nearly nine seconds quicker than the novice hurdle where Yanworth beat Le Prezien!! The winner was Sceau Royal who has gone on to win the C2 Triumph Trial at Cheltenham and earn quotes of 16/1 for the Festival itself. The Racing Post analysis for Winterfell was “Led, ridden approaching 2 out, headed before last, eased when beaten flat.” Now young Mr Skelton really likes a plan. Well how about a couple more runs and set him up for the Fred Winter 4yo handicap at the Festival? Of course a bit fitter, a bit stronger, a decent win and he could be a player in the Triumph itself!
WOODLAND OPERA (Mrs John Harrington) Two runs, two wins and an entry in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas. This is a dark horse to go to the very top. A gelded 5yo son of Robin des Champs out of a Strong Gale mare he won his bumper at Leopardstown as an unconsidered 14/1 shot but beat the odds on Mullins Fuji Mountain and he was “eased close home”. He won his maiden hurdle at Navan when he “kept on well” and had Coney Island and another Mullins favourite Potters Point behind in second and third with over twenty lengths back to the fourth. I keep reading among Irish correspondents that his maiden hurdle win and that of Tombstone (already in #startracking) have been the strongest in Ireland this season, so let’s see how far Woodland Opera can go? Whatever he achieves over hurdles has surely got to be bettered when he sees a fence?